All writers have blind spots. We have our pets—favorite words, clichés, overused phrases, excessive adverbs—that we read right over when reviewing our stories. So, what’s the big deal? I love the word just. I can use just over and over again, and it sounds just fine to me.

The problem is that the reader often trips over them. He can get so distracted by these worn out words and phrases that he misses the story entirely and focuses only on finding the next instance of the redundant word. We don’t want that to happen.

I’m always on the lookout for tools to help writers, myself included, root out those unconscious habits that dull the shine of their stories, and when I find one for free, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. That happened last week with a software program called SmartEdit.

Sorry, Mac friends, SmartEdit is a Windows program, and it accepts only .rtf files. RTF files are rich text format files that most word processing programs can read, and they can be easily created by choosing Save As and then selecting the .rtf option.

SmartEdit does the following:

  • monitors troublesome words (you/you’re)
  • shows the number of times a word or phrase is used
  • displays the number of times a dialog tag is used
  •  tracks the usage of clichés
  • identifies all adverbs

The great part is that the lists of words and phrases SmartEdit checks for can be modified. That way, you can customize it to your misused and overused words. I made sure it searches out all instances of just and always, another favorite word. After you’ve run the scan of your story, you can also save the results as a report.

I sound like an advertisement for this program, but whenever I find a tool that helps me be a more conscious writer and sheds lights on some of my blind spots, I think everyone needs to know about it, especially if it’s free.

You can download a copy of SmartEdit at http://www.smart-edit.com.

So tell me, what are some of your blind spots? What words or phrases do you repeatedly use? How could a program like this help your writing? Post your comments below, and let’s learn from each other.

Pencil image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

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